Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ezekiel's theological agenda and qualifications (3)

Paul Joyce on page 33 of Ezekiel, a commentary, writes, “The theological agenda [Ezekiel] addresses is defined by a range of traditions that appear to have broken down and to be in crisis: ‘the land’ divinely promised to the patriarchs; Israel’s status as a special people, chosen by YHWH; the city of Jerusalem; the temple; the monarchy.”

Ezekiel was going to “speak” to these issues, but what sort of language was he going to use – or to put it theologically, what sort of language did he have available for God to use? On pages 190-1 of The Message of the Prophets, Gerhard von Rad writes, “In matters of general knowledge and culture alone Ezekiel’s intellectual horizons were unusually wide. . .”

“Ezekiel was familiar with a variety of traditional material of a mythological or legendary kind (the primeval man, Ezek. 28:11ff.; the foundling, Ezek. 1.1ff.; the marvelous tree, Ezek. 31:1f.) . . . When we further notice that Ezekiel is as well-informed about the technical details of shipbuilding as about the places from which the necessary materials had to be imported (Ezek.27:1ff.j) , we arrive at a picture of a man of not only all-round general culture, but of intellectual powers of the first rank. Fore Ezekiel, more even than Jeremiah, needed to express his prophetic message in writing – in an ordered form. He makes scarcely any use of the shorter units of expression, the diatribe and the threat, which classical prophecy had employed. When he speaks, the results are as a rule literary compositions, even large-scale discussions, for example, the literary category of the dirge, which he develops to almost baroque proportions (Ezek. 19:1ff., 10ff.; 27.1ff.; 28:1ff.; 21.1ff., 32.1ff).”

Von Rad provides several more examples of Ezekiel’s wide-ranging knowledge and then writes, “No other prophet feels so great a need to think out problems so thoroughly and to explain them with such complete consistency. In other swords, Ezekiel is not only a prophet, but a theologian as well. And this double office was essential for him, because he confronted a presumptuous and indeed rebellious generation for which a prophet’s preaching was not enough: he had to debate and argue with it.”

On page 193 von Rad writes, “The richest quarries for information [about Ezekiel] are, of course, the great historical retrospects in chs. 16, 20 and 23. There is no mistaking that these were written from a priestly pint of view. No doubt, Ezekiel is above all else a prophet, but the world of ideas in which he lives, the standards which he apples, and the categories according to which he sees Israel’s existence ordered before Yahweh, are expressly those of a priest. . .”

Comment: Am I reading anything in Joyce or von Rad that isn’t “orthodox”? I don’t think so; quite the contrary. Here, both Joyce & von Rad are sticking with Scripture, letting Scripture explain Ezekiel. This is a refreshing change from the non-Scriptural “end-times overlay” the Dispensationalists use to deal with Ezekiel’s book.

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